FIBA World Cup: Russia Survives D’Tigers’ Ambush
By Our Correspondent With Agency Report
Russia survived a tight battle with Nigeria, coming back from eight points down in the fourth quarter for a crucial 82-77 victory to start Group B play at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.
Mikhail Kulagin paced Russia with 16 points while TCL Player of the Game Andrey Vorontsevich scored 14 points, Andrey Zubkov added 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists and Vitaly Fridzon chipped in 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.
Josh Okogie was Nigeria’s leading scorer with 18 points while veteran star Ike Diogu was scoreless in 16 minutes of action.
Turning Point: Russia trailed 71-63 with under 6 minutes to go but used the full court press to charge back into the game with a 10-0 run to take the lead. Russia proved the better finishers down the stretch as they connected on 7 of 8 free throws in the final 32 seconds and benefitted from an unsportsmanlike foul on Okogie with 10.6 seconds to play.
TCL Player of the Game: Vorontsevich saved his best for the final quarter, having totalled just 5 points in the first 35 minutes. Then he had 5 points in the big 10-0 spurt to change the momentum and added 4 more points in the final 2 minutes, finishing with 14 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal.
Stats Don’t Lie: Russia converted 11 of 27 three-pointers for 41 percent while Nigeria lagged behind at 7 of 21 for 33 percent. Russia also forced Nigeria into 21 turnovers.
Bottom Line: In a group with Argentina, this game was of major importance as both teams are looking to reach the Second Round. Russia managed to pick up the victory and hope to make it two straight on Monday September 2 against Korea. Nigeria’s task doesn’t get any easier as their next game is against Argentina on the same day.
They Said: “”For this kind of a game, (8-point lead) really was a big lead. But we went with the small lineup, we made two quick three-pointers and that helped us to endure over the last two minutes. And in the last two minutes we were better, more concentrated, smarter and had a little (bit of) luck, too.” – Russia head coach Sergey Bazarevich
“We talked about staying together, focus, not lose concentration, because this situation was really bad for your feelings, when you try to do something over and over again. One steal after the timeout, we were a little bit risky about that, and that was (coach Sergey Bazarevich’s) thing. For us, the main thing was to stay together, because we showed the basketball that we play. We play defense together, we help each other on defense, and we share the ball on offense. That was the main thing for us.” – Russia forward Andrey Vorontsevich
“We wanted to make them take contested two pointers, and we’ve been doing that successfully. Then, we allowed them three easy threes. When you allow a team like Russia three threes straight, they will punish you.” – Nigeria’s Josh Okogie about losing the 8-point lead in the final quarter